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Higher ed’s test-optional movement grows significantly

University Business, September 2018

The number of higher ed institutions rethinking how they screen and accept new students continues to grow. In recent months, Stanford, Princeton and Brown universities announced that they would make SAT and ACT scores optional in the admissions process.

Since 2005, more than 1,000 accredited colleges and universities have made the scores optional—or have ignored them altogether, according to FairTest.org. These schools are turning to other methods, including essays, to select students.

At Princeton, for example, all applicants must submit a graded writing sample from high school, preferably from an English or history class.

Admissions officers point to multiple studies that indicate that SAT success is relative to family income, high school quality and cultural identity. “All this testing combined can add up in terms of cost for a family, and we do not want the fees associated with the application process to be reasons for students not to apply to Princeton,” says Dean of Admission Janet Rapelye.

More accessibility

Ball State University in Indiana will begin reviewing GPAs and high school curricula as a predictor of long-term student success.

“If students feel their SAT or ACT test scores don’t represent their academic abilities and decide not to submit them, we’ll holistically consider their academic work and difficulty, extracurricular participation, and any applicant statements or recommendations,” says Kay Bales, vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Services.

“Our goal is to lead students to have successful careers and meaningful lives. This starts by making college education a possibility for more qualified students.”

The University of Chicago has introduced one of the more compelling new tools. This fall, the highly selective research institution will invite prospective students to submit a two-minute video in their admissions packet.

“They’re asking all kids to submit short videos, making their case for what they’re passionate about and why they want to go to Chicago,” says Ted Dintersmith, a change expert focused on issues related to education, innovation and democracy.

“They will review examples of nonstandardized, non-curriculum-based accomplishments and work that the student is proud of. When a school like Chicago does that, it’s a pretty big deal.”